Katere — Katere Clinic situated 117 kilometres from Rundu in Kavango East is one of 232 clinics in Namibia affected by a high patient-nurse ratio. In fact, Katere Clinic is the fourth most populated clinic in the Nyangana district, but is headed by a single nurse.
Registered nurse at the clinic Anna-Rosa Kanyengo told New Era that the clinic is overcrowded on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. "The patients won't come the time that they are feeling sick," she said.
She explained that people who become sick on weekends do not seek health services at the hospital, because of the long distances they have to travel to reach the hospital.
Kanyengo attends to 20 to 30 patients on an average day. On a busy day she attends to at least 40 patients. "It's very bad, because sometimes I don't go for lunch or tea-break, because I have to attend to all the patients," she added.
Although some days are designated for expectant mothers, as well as HIV patients, Kanyengo attends to all patients who seek health services. "I only take five new expecting mothers to attend to on a given day. Those five can take me the whole day, because I have a lot of things to do.
"I can take up to one hour just to attend to one new mother and if I am with the nurse assistant it can take up to 40 minutes," said Kanyengo, explaining that the process includes health education, urine tests, taking blood samples, HIV counselling and testing.
"It takes me up to eight hours to attend to five pregnant women," said Kanyengo, who spoke of the burden of nurses being overworked, especially in the rural areas.
The USAID HIV Clinical Services Technical Assistance Project (UTAP) has employed 180 health-workers in eight districts.
Nurse mentor Rightwell Zulu agrees that there is a shortage of health professionals in the country. "As you saw at Nyangana District Hospital, most people working there are foreigners, including the doctors," he said. Out of the eight clinics in the Nyangana district only eight are have at least two nurses on duty, said Zulu. "The rest are run by one nurse."
"Everybody wants to work in the city, where there is Harambee. Here there are no banks, no private hospital if they (health professionals) fall sick. If you have a child, you want the child to go to a private school. We received new graduates (nurses), but we don't know for how long they will stay," Zulu remarked.